Before the campus exchange to Abu Dhabi, I had little knowledge about the UAE. The impression was limited to desert, oil, shopping mall, hot summer and religion. Although I sometimes saw my friends showing their excited selfies with the exotic backgrounds in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, I never thought about taking two months to explore. However, my curiosity arose rapidly when hearing more and more classmates describing their moments living in this region.

Thanks to the helpful advice given by our classmates, our group had a good list for food, shopping, sightseeing spots, and useful local apps even before we started.

When I arrived at Abu Dhabi, it was the best weather with clear sky, sunshine and comfortable temperatures. Along the wide road to our serviced apartment were big vehicles and giant buildings with the images of the country’s founding father Sheikh Zayed. Over the next few days, I was impressed by the cozy place we stayed at, the convenience of going everywhere by taxi, and the new campus occupying two floors with a stunning view.

the nice view from the Amphi

One of the unique benefits of this campus was that the small cohort enabled us to build close relationships with each other. As the first lucky batch that studied in the newly opened campus, we always joked that we would be spoiled.

We kicked off our adventure with a team-building exercise in the desert and a dinner on a boat. The rest of P3 was a combination of intensive work and fun. We spent hours and hours discussing assignments with different group members; we met clients to present our deliverables; we had several networking events in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai; we took tours in the grand mosque and Louvre; we celebrated birthdays and Chinese New Year in the apartments and cafeteria; we went out to try tasty cuisine with classmates who dropped by for a couple of days; we rewarded ourselves by lying on the Corniche beach.

Group photo before leaving the campus

Besides the student life experience, my takeaway from this period was a much deeper understanding of doing business in this region. I heard interesting stories from both professors and guest speakers, got to know how the island where our campus is located was developed, how the hospital nearby operated, learnt about the blueprints for Yas Island and how sovereign funds in this region are diversifying their investments. We visited many companies and had interactions with quite a few management teams. We were inspired by their enthusiasm about the diversified and agile environment. I also felt inspired by the various free zones and well-decorated incubators, and talking to some entrepreneurs to learn their journey in this region. Those articles and pictures about this region suddenly became so real.

To me, the UAE is like a big start-up with a visionary government and experimental mindset. The government has realized the constraints of the reliance on natural resources and the challenge of talent shortage. It aspires to further exploit its advantage of being a hub that can connect the East and West of the world, as well as to establish other sustainable competences that can support a continuous growth of the country. As a result, in recent years, it has shown generosity and an open mindset to attract people from all over the world to create long-term roadmaps, and has conducted experiments in the application of cutting-edge technologies.